Josephine “JoJo” Weis received the Career Achievement award for Justin-Siena track and field this season.
“I don’t know what could be a better description of her time here,” Braves head coach Tracy Martin said of the award Thursday in the Gasser Center, where Weis signed a letter of commitment to continue her career with the University of Redlands. “I don’t know too many athletes that have been in more events than JoJo and done as well as she has in all of them.”
At the North Coast Section’s recent Redwood Empire Area Meet, the senior not only helped the 4x100-meter relay team run a school-record 50.84 seconds – bettering the time she had helped record when she was a freshman – but also notched personal records in the pole vault (9 feet, 8 inches) and 300 hurdles (49.49).
Weis said Redlands recruited her mainly for the pole vault because the Bulldogs don’t have many athletes in that event. But with Weis, an athlete who has the potential to score points in a handful of events, Redlands might want to spread her around like the Braves did. She also did the 100, discus and 100 hurdles for the first time this season – the 100 four times, actually – and once did the 200, one of her regular events the last three seasons. She also ran the 400 regularly the last three years, posting a PR of 1:02.04 as a sophomore.
Unfortunately, athletes are limited to four events per meet.
“With JoJo’s speed, talent, strength and ability, the challenge is to find a way to have her in only four events,” Martin said. “JoJo’s best event was her last event at so many of our meets, and that’s because she is that strong and committed. I’m just so excited for Redlands to have the same challenge that we’ve had.”
Weis ran the opening leg of the 4x100 relay as a freshman in 2016, when she teamed then-seniors Dena Prince and Khiely Jackson and then-sophomore Kendall Martin on a then-school record 51.17 at the NCS Meet of Champions at UC Berkeley.
Weis continued to run the 4x100 relay with mostly older teammates until this year, when she teamed with sophomore Natalie Kelly, junior Claire Sullivan and freshman Sydney Thweatt on another record time.
“They came in strong and by that NCS (Redwood Empire Area) meet, we had everything together and it was an awesome second-place win for us,” Weis said.
Said Tracy Martin, “I know that JoJo motivated her teammates to make sure the record happened when she was a freshman, and this year her team delivered that motivation to her and made sure they got the record and went to the Meet of Champions.
“She has such a contagious commitment to compete. We wish we had 100 Josephine Weises. She really has set the stage for the athletes behind her to understand what it takes to really, really take this sport to the next level in so many ways – commitment, emotional state, attitude, physical state.”
Weis spoke next and thanked everyone for coming to the ceremony, especially her “best friend,” senior teammate Gianna Troppy, who – along with senior Landon Mispagel – will compete with Martin’s daughter, Kendall, at UC Santa Barbara. Another teammate on hand was senior Conrad Say, who committed to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore before the season.
“We will have nine track and field athletes competing in college next year,” Tracy Martin noted.
Troppy qualified for this year’s state meet in the high jump, representing Napa County with St. Helena sophomore 3200 runner Harper McClain.
“Gianna really is my true motivator to get fit. We came here before even preseason started and she really pushed me to work out,” Weis said. “I also want to thank Tracy. She’s such a motivational coach. I don’t know how I would have been able to do the 300s without her saying ‘C’mon, look how good you are – you can do this.’ I want to thank (pole vault coach Andrew) Avellar. He’s the one that picked me out as a freshman to try the pole vault. He said ‘Hey, c’mon over and give it a shot,’ and I ended up absolutely loving it. And I thank Gary (Prince, assistant coach) with the relay. I couldn’t have done all those passes without you.”
She also thanked assistant coach Tony Giovannoni, Troppy’s uncle, for helping her break 50 seconds in the 300 hurdles.
“I never did the 100 hurdles because you need really good form and I just don’t have that, so Tony said ‘Let’s start with the 300s’ and we just stuck to it. I ended up getting a season PR, so I felt pretty good,” she said.
Weis has known Tracy Martin since she was a St. Apollinaris fifth-grader and started running for the Napa Track Club.
“Tracy always knew I had pretty good form; it was just mainly conditioning, a lot of reps, a lot of running,” said Weis, who started pole vaulting as a freshman. “Pole vault was definitely not natural for me. It’s taken some time – it’s still taking some time to really make sure that my form is good and I still have a nice run and a nice plant. There are a lot of variables.”
Weis got to compete as a freshman alongside Isabella deBruin when the 2016 graduate set Justin-Siena’s pole vault record of 11-9.
“I absolutely loved getting to know her my freshman year,” Weis said of deBruin, who went on to vault for Cal. “She was a real inspiration because when you go into the world of pole vault, there are a lot of gymnasts. I don’t have a gymnastics background and Isabella didn’t either, so she kept telling me ‘Don’t give up – if I can do it, you can.’ It was incredible what she was able to do without starting in gymnastics at a very young age.
“Andrew’s main thing is ‘Please do what I say and I promise you will not be injured.’ Flinging yourself in the air with a pole, it’s very hard to listen to that sometimes. But I’m really thankful that he stuck with me through all the fearful moments because that happened a lot to me throughout the whole entire season. He was always there to make sure that I was OK and really just pushed me to my limits, and that’s how I was able to get to where I am right now. I never thought as a freshman I would be doing the pole vault in college.”
Tracy Martin said Weis doesn’t take her talent for granted.
“She knows it’s a gift and she knows that it’s her job to maximize that gift and get the most she can out of the sport,” the coach said. “When you have that attitude, you’ll go to college and up the ante even more because you’ll have to compete against more challenging people. I don’t worry about JoJo in that scenario. She’ll be able to handle that.”
So what does such as well-rounded athlete and people person wan to be?
“Maybe an accountant,” Weis said. “I’m not very good at AP Calculus but I am very good at direct math and crunching numbers. Currently I’m undeclared, but it’s a liberal arts school so I hope that their guidance will lead me in a direction for my future.
“I’m also really interested in photography.”
Weis had a gallery about “Our Town” a few months ago that people could look at as they entered Siena Hall to watch the play.
The daughter of Russ and Laurie Weis also served as secretary of Justin-Siena’s PAWS animal welfare student club, and was pleasantly surprised to have a friend’s bulldog show up at the start of the ceremony.
“My mom set that up, and I was really grateful for that,” Weis said, “because she’s a bulldog and now I’m going to be a Bulldog.”